The World’s End ** (out of five)
After game-changer Shawn of the Dead and the riotously funny Hot Fuzz, The World’s End, the latest from writers Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, directed by Wright, and starring Pegg and Nick Frost, is a serious misfire, unfunny, unexciting, uninvolving and, perhaps the worst sin of all, incredibly self-indulgent to the detriment of the audience’s enjoyment.
Pegg plays Gary King, who rocked in high school – or at least managed to be a bit of a leader – but is now forty years old and a big loser. To regain some sense of himself, he reassembles four of his old school chums in an effort to complete a twelve-pub-crawl that they tried, and failed, to do in their final school year. Along the way, they encounter alien replicants bent on world domination.
Shawn of the Dead was a zombie spoof that also managed to have some zombie survival thrills; Hot Fuzz was a cop-buddy movie spoof that also had some amazing cop action sequences. The World’s End takes on the lesser “aliens amongst us” genre – think Invasion of the Body Snatchers – but then, rather than revel in the conventions of the genre as the other films did, instead devolves into a kick-socky action flick that’s repetitive and, tragically, boring.
Gary is a truly unlikeable character, which makes the first act painful to sit through; the second act, which adheres most closely to the body snatcher mold, is the most fun, with our heroes continuing towards The World’s End as the world ends. But the last act is worse than the first, lazily scripted, ludicrous, and puzzling in a bad way.
Greetings from Tim Buckley ***1/2 (out of five)
Daniel Algrant’s curio Greetings from Tim Buckley will appeal to fans of Jeff Buckley, fans of Tim Buckley, musicians, admirers of music makers, Brooklynphiles, and the general public in that order. It’s a love letter to two men and their music, honest and passionate in its intentions, if slow and meandering in its execution, but with a powerful emotional resolution.
In 1991, Jeff Buckley (Penn Badgley) travels from his home in California to Brooklyn to perform in a tribute concert to his Dad (whom he only met twice), celebrated musician Tim Buckley, who died at age 28; simultaneously, in 1966, Tim travels from California to Manhattan to play a couple of gigs. Jeff meets a girl (the amazing Imogen Poots); Tim dodges Jeff’s mother. Music must be the rope of reconciliation.
Almost experimental in its approach (and the most distilled possible version of a “biopic”, examining about four days in its subject’s life), it’s a quiet movie of small rewards, made by a whole lot of talented people taking a risk and pulling it off with humble aplomb.